ROME — A discrimination complaint has been filed against the archdiocese of Indianapolis by an employee alleging she was fired by Roncalli High School for supporting two other colleagues who were dismissed for being in same-sex marriages.
The complaint was filed by Kelley Fisher who worked for as a social worker at the high school for 15 years until she was fired last spring, according to a report in The Indianapolis Star.
Two of her colleagues, Shelly Fitzgerald and Lynn Starkey, had already been dismissed for their same-sex marriages and Fisher had taken to social media in their defense.
Reports of Fisher’s complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes just days after her colleague filed a lawsuit against the school and the diocese.
The archdiocese has defended Fisher’s dismissal, telling The Indianapolis Star that they have a right to “hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.”
“Catholic schools exist to communicate the Catholic faith to the next generation,” they continued, “To accomplish their mission, Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom.”
Fisher, who worked for the high school but was employed through Catholic Charities, which supplied the school with social workers, said that she was warned by Archbishop Charles Thompson that if she supported her colleagues Fitzgerald or Starkey in a public manner, she would be going against the Catholic Church.
After posting two messages in support of her colleagues on social media — including a letter urging a change in the contract for same-sex individuals — she was summoned to meet with the high school principal and asked about her support of the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics.
“Our job is, as a counselor or social worker, that we don’t bring our values or judgment into a session,” she said. “And I feel very strongly about that.”
She was then placed on an improvement plan and terminated at the end of the last school year.
A statement from New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ Catholic advocacy group, described the decision as an unjust attack on the gay and lesbian community.
“Sadly, it is not surprising that another Roncalli employee has claimed she was unjustly terminated,” said Robert Shine, the organization’s executive director. “The time has come for other U.S. bishops and the Vatican to intervene against Archbishop Thompson who is deeply wounding more people and communities with each new unjust action.”
Fisher’s case marks the latest development within the archdiocese. Earlier this year the archbishop tried to strip Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School of its Catholic designation and the right to exercise the sacraments after it refused to fire one of its employees who was in a gay civil marriage.
The Jesuit school has appealed the decision to the Vatican and last month the Congregation for Catholic Education suspended the decree against Brebeuf while it undergoes further review.
Noted canon lawyer Kurt Martens has predicted that however the case is decided, it is likely to become a test for the limit and extent of a bishop’s oversight.
“Greater oversight comes with greater responsibilities, or, to put it in more legal terminology, greater oversight comes with greater liability,” he recently wrote of the case.
“As long as the oversight is limited to what is taught in the classroom on faith and morals, the diocesan bishop and the diocese are fine. That is different when a diocesan bishop tries to interfere in the governance of the school based upon certain actions or behavior,” he continues.
“His interventions — or lack thereof — increase the liability of the bishop and the diocese. If indeed a bishop can order a school run by religious to dismiss a teacher, that same bishop also has the power to intervene, let’s say, when students are abused by teachers,” Martens said. “If he fails to act, he and the diocese for sure will be on the hook when the liability question is put on the table.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212
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